Patients who are considering dentures—or who possibly already have dentures—often ask about dental implants as an alternative. There is much to consider in the “dentures vs implants” discussion. We will break down the key features of each option and important points to consider as you decide which option is best for you.
What Are Dentures?
Most people are familiar with the basic concept of dentures, which are made of acrylic and custom-fitted to the individual. Dentures have been a viable option for teeth replacement since the first century. Though the materials have improved over time, not much has changed with their basic design in the last several decades.
Dentures can replace a full arch of upper or lower teeth. Alternately, partial dentures can replace several upper or lower teeth in cases where some of the remaining natural teeth are still in good condition. We routinely counsel patients on whether full or partial dentures are a better option. While it is always our preference to preserve natural teeth whenever possible, there are times when it is in your best interests to extract them.
What Are Dental Implants?
Believe it or not, dental implants can be traced back to 200 BC. However, implants as they are known today date back to the 1950s when researchers discovered titanium was a viable option to allow for proper fusing with the bone for a long-term solution. They did not become widely available until the 1980s.
A dental implant replaces the tooth’s root. Once the implant has properly fused with your bone, we can place a crown on it. Your final result is a natural-looking artificial tooth. Dental implants can be used to replace a single missing tooth. They can also be used as part of a bridge or as anchors to better support a denture.
Though more expensive than other options for replacing a missing tooth—such as a bridge, or even simply not replacing it at all—there are several benefits to implants. First, as a long-term replacement, there is very little maintenance beyond good preventative home care and routine office visits. Second, with a dental implant, your body is much less likely to experience the bone loss that is common when a tooth or multiple teeth have been removed.
Transitioning from Dentures to Implants
Patients sometimes ask, “Can I get dental implants if I have dentures?” The answer is yes, it is possible to retroactively place dental implants. We can then convert that original denture to an implant-retained one (which is removable) or replace the denture with an implant-supported fixed prosthetic. This latter option is not removable, and its construction is not the same as an acrylic denture.
Dentures vs Implants: Things to Consider
When it comes to deciding which option is better, you must look at your needs and weigh the pros and cons. For example:
- How Many Missing Teeth: To replace a single tooth, or several very isolated missing teeth, implants are going to make more sense. Partial dentures replace several teeth in a row. For a single missing tooth, the alternative to an implant is a bridge.
- The Health of Remaining Teeth: As mentioned above, we like to save good teeth whenever possible. This will play into the conversation regarding whether we believe you are a good candidate for implants instead of dentures.
- Bone Levels: We mentioned before that dental implants can help preserve your bone. However, if you have had missing teeth for many years, we will need to determine if you still have enough bone to support an implant. If you do not, there are options to build up your bone, but that will come at an additional cost.
- Long-Term Expectations: One of the biggest misconceptions we come across with our patients is that they think dentures are a “one and done” solution. On the contrary, not only do dentures require regular maintenance but just as with any prosthetic, they will need to be replaced periodically. The average life expectancy for a set of dentures is 7-10 years. You need to factor this into your decision when you are weighing your options—both from a cost perspective and from the likelihood that the longer you are in dentures, the more bone loss you will experience, which further necessitates additional adjustments to their fit.
What Is the Cost of Dentures vs Implants?
One of the big deciding factors in the dentures vs implants debate is the price point. Costs can vary depending on whether you are considering full dentures or partials, for example. Implants are generally more expensive than most other alternatives. And it’s certainly true that an implant-supported denture will be more expensive than a traditional denture. You also must consider whether your dental insurance has coverage for any of these procedures, and what that does to your overall out-of-pocket responsibilities.
Beyond the dollar amount, you must also look at the long-term ramifications of your choice. We can help walk you through your options and talk about the up-front costs of each choice as well as the long-term, such as the likelihood of multiple replacement denture sets, or added costs to rebuild your bone levels for implants.
Scheduling a Consultation
Dr. Dennis and her team at Peach Valley Dental are ready to answer any questions you have regarding your options to replace missing teeth. When it comes to the “dentures vs implants” question, we know there are many factors to consider. Contact our office to set up a consultation. We can review your records in detail and help devise an action plan to achieve your goals.